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In pyrotechnics a salute is a device primarily designed to make a loud report (a bang), and may or may not have a visual effect. Most salutes will also have a very bright flash and are made from many different formulas depending on manufacturer and desired effect. They may have aluminum, antimony, titanium and other metals added for sparks or flash effects. The salute may be fired on the ground (ground salute) or launched from a mortar as a shell (aerial salute). Salutes are one of the more dangerous type fireworks. The "guns" (a.k.a. mortar tubes) used to launch the aerial salutes in a commercial fireworks display vary from 1.75 inch diameter up to 5 inch diameter.

Most air and ground salutes are made with flash powder but earlier salutes, primarily the much larger ones, would carry a black powder payload. The earlier salutes were referred to as cannon crackers and have been outlawed since the mid-to-late 60's. The burn rate of black powder is dependent on confinement and pressure, unlike flash powder which burns at roughly the same rate contained or not contained. That is the difference between the two.

Quantity of flash can vary depending on manufacturer. Some 2 inch long salutes may carry 6 grams while other 2 inch salutes may carry 10. Up to 1% of fumed silica is sometimes added to flash powder as an anti-caking agent.

Comparison to explosives[edit]

Though both news reporters and black-market dealers often make comparisons between the power of salutes and a particular quantity of dynamite ("1/4 stick" or "as powerful as a fourth of a stick of dynamite"), such comparisons are not grounded in reality. For reference, a typical stick of dynamite contains over 10 times more explosive material than an M-80 (35 grams of nitroglycerin versus 3 grams of KCIO4/AL). Nitroglycerin explodes with a shock wave that moves faster than the speed of sound, whereas the powders used in various salutes deflagrate (burn) at a slower rate and below the speed of sound. This prevents the formation of a detonation wave and is the difference between high explosive and low explosive.

Dynamite (and other high explosives) undergo detonation whereas flash powder in any quantity undergoes deflagration. Because flash salutes do not generate a detonation (shock) wave, they have a very low brisance and do not exhibit the Munroe effect.

Cherry Bomb[edit]

  • 1/2" to 5/8"Diameter
  • 3/4" to 1"Circumference
  • 500 milligrams - 1 Gram of Perchlorate/Sulfur/Antimony Sulfide "Flash Powder"
  • Color: Colors are variable throughout the industry but most common are different variations of red such as dark red, magenta, maroon or pink

Also known as kraft salutes, these are made of paper cup sets, coated with several layers of sawdust and animal hide glue (or sodium silicate), often finished with a reddish dye (Sudan Red).[1] The process of coating kraft salute casings in order to make them round is called panning. The glued casings are tumbled with sawdust while sodium silicate solution is slowly added to the pan. Historically, the core contained a perchlorate, sulfur, and antimony sulfide mixture. Some manufacturers added Aluminum and/or Magnesium Dioxide to this mixture. As sighted by "How to Make Exploding Fireworks by, John Donner", "KENT FIREWORKS" added a small red or green star to their mixture for a color effect.

Bootleg versions may vary in size but usually hold up to about the same amount of flash, commonly 70/30 potassium perchlorate/dark aluminum.

Silver Salute / Ash Can / Atomic Salute[edit]


  • 1-1/2" Long
  • 1/2" Bore
  • 10/16" Outside diameter
  • 1.5 Grams of Flash Powder
  • Color: Silver with "DO NOT HOLD IN HAND" label

These particular salutes were silver, 1-1/2" long and 1/2" in diameter. Around the outside of the tube was printed "DO NOT HOLD IN HAND" in small capital letters in a continuous spiral. Each tube was covered with a dozen warning labels. The ends of the tubes were plugged with sodium silicate /calcium carbonate cement or paper end plugs. Holes were made smaller than the fuse so that the fuse could be twirled in for better adhesion with a small dab of glue. Some of these older devices poses a hazard due to their highly sparing use of cement plugging, although others that used larger quantities were much safer.

Atomic Salutes looked the same but were a little fatter due to having a heavier wall thickness. These oldies much the same can be seen on Great American Fireworks display posters on the internet at various fireworks pyrobillia websites. Bootleg Atomic Salute clones are seen more often today than the original Atomic Salutes and or Silver Salutes/Ash Cans and can contain anywhere from 1.5 to 5 grams of flash. Bootleg manufacturers may just refer to them as a simple M-80 for short.


M-80's (BOOTLEG)
  • 1-1/2" Long
  • 9/16" Bore
  • 11/16" Outside diameter
  • 2.5 Grams of 70/30 Flash Powder
  • Color: Glossy Red


  • 1-1/2" Long
  • 5/8" Bore
  • 3/4" Outside diameter
  • 3 Grams of 70/30 Flash Powder
  • Color: Flat Red

No photo of authentic M-80's Available

(MILITARY M-80 VS CIVILIAN M-80) Originally the M-80 was a military training device designed to simulate small arms fire in basic training. The "M-80's" designation was a military product identification code number. The U.S. government contracted with several fireworks makers to produce these hefty salutes. Military issue M-80's are made from a plain brown craft paper tube 1-1/2" long and 9/16" diameter, fitted with a thick stiff, green Visco fuse and packaged in boxes of 50. Each Salute bears the words "M-80 Firecracker" and the date of manufacture "4-64". Careful dissection reveals that each firecracker is double plugged at each end with a paper end plug and disk cap. Military M-80's packed a full load of 80 grains which is equivalent to 5.2 grams of flash powder. "M" for Military and "80" for 80 grains. These differ from most flash salutes, which function optimally with some airspace and loose powder. Perhaps this was done because of some government specification that had little to do with performance or perhaps they knew something others did not.

After World War II THE M-80 was marketed as a fireworks item for civilian use. The first ones on the market were war surplus. When some of the fireworks dealers saw how well they were received by the public, they began making civilian copies. These copies were sold by the millions in the 1950's and 1960's. The usual civilian M-80 had a red tube of the original dimensions, bearing the words "M-80 FIRECRACKER DO NOT HOLD IN HAND" printed on the outside in bold letters.

Military flash composition:

  • potassium perchlorate KCLO
  • bright pyro aluminum Al 22.5%
  • sulfur S 10%
  • antimony sulfide Sb

Civilian flash composition:

  • potassium perchlorate KCLO
  • dark pyro aluminum Al 30%
  • sometimes up to 1% fumed silica

Bootleg M-80's typically carry 2.5 to 3 grams of (KCLO4:Al ratio 70:30) but can reach up to 5.2 grams for an authentic military style M-80 depending on the manufacturer. In Mexico, these salutes are called "Barrenos". Everything legally sold in the U.S. under the name "M-80, M-98, M-90, M-600" after 1966 have no where near the same power as the originals.

Double M-80 / Super M-80[edit]

Double M-80/Super M-80 (BOOTLEG).

  • 3" Long
  • 9/16" Bore
  • 11/16" Outside Diameter
  • 6 Grams of Flash Powder
  • Color: Glossy Red

This is a ground salute that is double the power of an M-80, hence the name Double M-80 or Super M-80. The device is intended to contain 6 grams of pyrotechnic flash


  • 2" Long
  • 3/4" Bore
  • 1" Outside diameter
  • 10 Grams of Flash Powder
  • Color: RWB, Kraft or Red

Popularly referred to as the "M-1000" in California but still referred to as "M-100" everywhere else in the United States. Not to be confused with "M-1000 / Full Stick" (see illustration of "Full Stick / M-1000"). "California M-1000's" are more popular than the M-80 due to their water resistant quality, high power and pocket size. The top plug and fuse are essentially made in the same step - see illustration>. End plugs can be made from a variety of materials but the most common are the "Fast Set Pack" hot melt type. The high-quality hot melt plugs is better able to hold in the pressure from slower burning flash powder formulas than other . Ground salutes with slow burning flash are notorious for spitting out end plugs.

Block Buster[edit]


small version

  • 2" long
  • 3/4" diameter
  • color: red
  • 9 grams flash
  • 1 gram titanium flake


larger version

  • 2-1/2" long
  • 1" diameter
  • color: red
  • 14 grams flash
  • 1 gram titanium flake

Block Busters are known for their brilliant illumination of white sparks. Upon dissection, a very small percent of titanium flakes and sawdust is revealed but the primary agent is still flash powder. Titanium is used to create the visual effect while saw dust is used to slow down the flash burn and deepen the report sound. These salutes are very popular on the East Coast United States.

Quarter Stick / M-250[edit]


  • 2-1/2" long
  • 1" Bore
  • 1-1/4" outside diameter
  • 15 grams of flash Powder
  • Color: RWB, red or kraft


  • 3-1/2" long
  • 3/4" Bore
  • 1" Outside diameter
  • 15 Grams of Flash Powder
  • Color: RWB or Silver

A very popular large salute that may resemble baby dynamite, but is no where close in power. Same power as a large Block Buster.

Half Stick[edit]

  • 3-1/2 TO 6 INCH LONG
  • 3/4 TO 1 INCH BORE

The more flash powder, the bigger the boom right? Yes and no! Remember, flash compositions can vary from one manufacturer to another so this all depends on:

  • ratio of elements
  • how well its mixed
  • chemical density
  • type of aluminum
  • air space
  • 70/30 Flash ratio is the pyrotechnic industry standard
  • the longer the mixing time the more explosive the mixture
  • 800 to 2 micron Dark Aluminum is the standard for a high velocity report i.e. boom that sounds very sharp...used for M-80's
  • 325-mesh Bright Flake Aluminum is the standard for a low velocity report i.e. boom that sounds very deep...used for larger stuff
  • 325-mesh Bright Flake Aluminum is also used as a primary burst charge, or black powder accelerator/additive.
  • a small air pocket makes the report much louder

WARNINGS Bodily harm: arm loss, blindness, deafness, face burns, concussion, arm burns and possible death.

Full Stick / M-1000's[edit]


  • 3 to 6 INCH LONG
  • 1 to 2 INCH BORE

WARNINGS Bodily harm: Death

(Class B) Salutes Mortar / Shells[edit]


  • As opposed to federally banned salutes, these items are legally available only to licensed pyrotechnicians for use in professional fireworks displays.

  • Available in sizes ranging from 1.75" to 5" diameter. Although only available to licensed pyrotechnicians, products have found their way into the black market. Most common are the 2 INCH DS1 & 3 INCH SALUTE SHELLS.

  • Other salutes available to licensed pyrotechnicians may come in multi-fire cakes with labels such as "25 -100 Shot Thunder King."


  1. ^ T. Davis, The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives, Angriff Press, 1972. ISBN 0-913022-00-4

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salute_(pyrotechnics) — Please support Wikipedia.
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